This discography is from The Rough Guide to World Music (Volume 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East)
CD = recommended first buy
cd = compact disc
t = tape only
v = vinyl only
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All of the CDs below are normally available from Digelius Music, Laivurinrinne 2, 00120 Helsinki; tel; (358) 9 666 375; http://www.digelius.com
cd Arctic Paradise
An overview of the new developments - 18 tracks from latest albums by many of the new-roots performers. Put out by the Finnish Music Information Centre, it's a not-for-sale promo CD but well worth tracking down.
cd Finnischer Tango - Tule Tanssimaan
The definitive album to illustrate the strange history of Finnish tango. The choice of its twenty-four tracks from a range of labels and sources from 1915 to 1998 is spot on, and the booklet is rich with human stories.
cd The Kalevala Heritage
No amount of text will convey the distinctiveness of runo-singing. These field recordings made between 1905 (the oldest recordings of Finnish folklore) and 1967 in Finland, Karelia and Ingria, drawn from the archive of SKS, reveal a great deal more. Lonnröt made Kalevala from songs such as these, telling of Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen, the first kantele, the birth of fire, and everyday life in another world which to us is drifting away but these singers still inhabited.
cd Könni ja Kaaleet: Könni and the Gypsies
The fine and distinctive singing of Finnish Gypsies, from the collection made by the late Erkki Ala-Könni in the 1970s plus three 1990 tracks. Includes Viljo Salojensaari and particularly impressive rendition by thirteen-year-old Marus Baltzar.
cd Soundscape of Finland
Excellently programmed 33-track sampler, a cross-section of the music in this chapter, from the label of the national Folk Music Institute (Kansanmusiikki-instituutti), a rich source of archive, current traditional and progressive Finnish roots recordings and publisher of many books on folk instruments and music.
A surprise fiftieth birthday present from many of Finnish new roots' finest to the man who has carried through a vision of the folk music of the future, Heikki Laitinen. In prime form are Me Naiset, Hedningarna, Arja Kastinen, Martti Pokela with Pirnales, Niekku, Virpi Forsberg, Etnopojat, Tuulenkantajat, Väinönputki, Wimme Saari, Hannu Saha ironically setting fire to a kantele (literally) with Primo, and the unsuspecting birthday boy, howling in the street with Suomussalmi-ryhmä.
Songwriter, guitarist and player of a snakelike long-bellowed concertina. Quirky, dryly humorous manner, ingenious original music, unusual and compelling singing of vivid, often surrealist, lyrics. One day Blad will be recognised as a national treasure.
cd Nikolai Blad (EiNo, Finland)
Full of ideas, which transmit even to non-Finns. Intuitive support from regulars mandolinist Jarmo Romppanen and Tapani Varis (double bass and overtone flute) plus percussionist Kristiina Ilmonen, Maria Kalaniemi, Me Naiset's Pia Rask and Maari Kallberg, Minna Raskinen, Kurt Lindblad and fiddler Piia Kleemola.
A young band destined for wide popularity featuring singer/fiddler Jenny Wilhelms, fiddle and viola player Christopher Öhman, with rippling, barking didjeridoo drones and deep drums well fitting the ringing dance tunes and epic ballads from the tradition of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority.
cd Ranarop: Call of the Sea Witch
(Warner Finlandia Innovator, Finland)
A hugely impressive, excellently produced debut album. Strong melodies, fine microtonal singing, interweaving fiddle and viola, an exquisite balance between beauty and guts.
At core a Swedish trio (see Sweden, p.300) but with much influence from Finnish singers Sanna Kurki-Suonio (recently replaced by Liisa Matveinen) and Tellu Virkkala (now replaced by Anita Lehtola) so the hugely powerful band is highly relevant in Finland too.
cd Karelia Visa
(Silence, Sweden; NorthSide, US)
For this 1999 album the band took a trip to Karelia for inspiration and the result was its most Finnish and runolaulu-slanted album yet. It is more acoustic than its predecessors, with Kurki-Suonioís voice prominent.
Sinikka Järvinen & Matti Kontio
Two key figures in contemporary kantele. Sinikka is Director of Sibelius Academy folk music department, Matti was a member of the band Karelia, and is a pioneer in the technology of recording and amplifying kantele.
cd Kantele Duo: Finnish Folk and Favourites
(Ondine Octopus, Finland)
Ignore its dull title - this is extremely skilful playing of duets on chromatic concert kanteles. The duo use a range of techniques (including train impersonations) largely on their own compositions.
JPP are the central band of contemporary pelimanni music. The line-up's liable to expand at home in Kaustinen, and on disc, but nowadays for touring it's Arto Järvelä, Mauno Järvelä, Matti Mäkelä, Tommi Pyykönen (fiddles), Timo Alakotila (harmonium) and Timo Myllykangas (bass).
CD String Tease
This 1998 release comprises largely new compositions - it's a living tradition - by Alakotila and Arto Järvelä.
cd Devil's Polska/Pirun Polska
(Olarin, Finland; Xenophile, US)
JPP's 1992 'greatest hits' album is also recommended for a sense of the evolution of their distinctive twist to Kaustinen tunes. Polkkas, polskas, waltzes and more, including of course a tango.
Finland's subtlest accordionist, drawing together threads from runo-song to Astor Piazzolla on five-row button accordion, using both chordal and free-bass techniques. Her fluid playing, extremely skilled but never showy, is far from the brashness often associated with accordions; she radiates a focused intensity.
(Olarin, Finland; Hannibal/Rykodisc, UK/US)
Kalaniemi with her band Aldargaz plus brass and string sections in rich, melodic original and traditional material, arranged by her, guitarist Olli Varis and producer/keyboardist Timo Alakotila.
Meditative kantele: Kastinen sits hunched on the floor, the fifteen-string kantele propped on one foot, building a web between the shifting flecks of light on the walls, the single candle burning steadily down through time until it flickers out and the silvery ringing dies away.
cd Kantele Meditation
(Finlandia Innovator, Finland)
Touching the soul of the old way of kantele music, this consists of a single improvisation. (Previously issued as Iro).
A dance and music group, formed in 1993, making contemporary dance with Finnish tradition-rooted dance music with occasional appealing singing. Most of the original musicians moved on to other projects in 1997, leaving a lively CD as a reminder of phase one.
cd Nousu ja Uho
Button-accordionist and singer Maija Karhinen, fiddlers Minna Ilmonen and Mika Virkkala, guitarists Matti Laitinen and Topi Korhonen, bassist Timo Myllykangas and percussionist Kari Kääriäinen in light, tight arrangements.
A singer of rivetting live presence and subtlety, who has brought a new strength to the vocal aspect of the new Finnish roots music, working in various bands and ensembles and now emerging with her own projects.
(Zengarden, Finland; Northside, US)
Her long-awaited solo album (1998), remarkable singing from silky to ululating, full of intense energy, in new songs shaped by the scale-forms, lyrics and inexorable rhythms of the runo-song tradition and moving freely among techno tools.
After working with the group Niekku (see below), Anna-Kaisa Liedes has turned to solo work with her own band as well as performing in Me Naiset and Tellu.
cd Kuuttaren Korut/Oi Miksi
(Olarin, Finland/Riverboat, UK)
Liedes' serene voice goes from tranquil to ecstatic in songs from Ostrobothnian, Ingrian, runolaulu and Gypsy traditions, with backing vocals from the rest of Me Naiset and accompaniment by members of Niekku and Aldargaz.
"Us women", the first a cappella vocal group (apart from formal choirs) in the Finnish revival, originally put together from singers in Sibelius Academy's folk music department by Sanna Kurki-Suonio for a Kaustinen show; she left before it recorded. Powerful - a group of individuals.
cd Me Naiset
Old, strong songs newly understood from the traditions of Ingria, Setumaa, Mordva and Finland.
Exploring new ideas and forming bands are key aspects of Sibelius Academy's folk music course. Niekku, formed by the first intake, comprised Anna-Kaisa Liedes, Maria Kalaniemi, Liisa Matveinen, Anu Itäpelto, Leena Joutsenlahti, and sometimes Arto Järvelä.
cd Niekku 3
The final album, ahead of the new roots developments at the time and still relevant. Chiming kanteles, ingenious accordion, silky vocal arrangements twisting to hardness.
An excellent, under-exposed instrumental band with two incarnations, one centred on atmospheric kantele explorations, the other on robust dance music.
The kantele incarnation: Sinikka Järvinen, Marianne Maans, Markku Lepistö, Pekka Pentikäinen, kanteles, jouhikko, fiddle, accordion, bass. Developments of music from tradition and by band and guests Martti Pokela and Hannu Saha.
cd Paraste Ennen/Bäst Före/Best Before
Expanded to a seven-piece, including the driving harmonica and harmonium of a name to watch in the new music, Jouko Kyhälä; lively, big-sounding, in Ostrobothnian and Swedish polka, polska, hambo, brudmarsch.
The skilful, droll duo of Arto Järvelä (vocals, fiddle, mandolins, nyckelharpa) and Kimmo Pohjonen (vocals, harmonica, two and five-row accordions, gogo marimba).
cd Gogo 4
Original material and hands across the Atlantic to Finland USA, including "Vuoma Pertti and Eastwood in Clintti" and Minnesotan Kip Peltoniemi material.
The most influential figure, as player, composer and motivator, in modern kantele.
cd Snow Kantele: Sámi Suite
(Warner Finlandia Innovator, Finland)
This is Pokela's most recent CD (1997), in which he, Sari Kauranen, Timo Väänänen and Sinikka Kontio play his new compositions as well as others evolved between them. Instrumentation is mainly the big silky-sounding concert kanteles, with a touch of the small five-string plus jouhikko (bowed lyre), musical saw and occasional wordless vocals from Anna-Kaisa Liedes and Maija Karhinen.
Progmatics are a dance-music band with attitude and haircuts: multi-instrumentalists Jouko Kyhälä, Markku Lepistö and Janne Lappalainen (harmonicas, keyboards, accordion, sax, cittern, banjo), with fiddler Perttu Paappanen.
cd Vaarallinen Lehmänkello: Lethal Cowbell
The album is not perhaps as wackily innovative as it could be, but it's enjoyable enough, with lots of tight, energetic playing of Finnish and Swedish trad and new tunes, a swingy reel and a folk-rocky song.
Raskinen, like many of the Pokela-inspired new generation of players, uses most of the Finnish kantele types in performance. She draws on both the tradition and her own compositions, some of which show Japanese and celtic influences.
Her own pieces for the concert kantele. A fine, melodic exposition of the instrument and its possibilities - harmonics are vibratoed koto-like, bent notes played while the levers are moving sing through the deep-chiming resonance of strings plucked, hit or brushed.
State-salaried Kaustinen-based group formed in 1986 to display the styles and instruments of Finnish folk music. Leading singers and musicians pass through it, joining core members Antti Hosioja, Ritva Talvitie, Timo Valo and Risto Hotakainen.
The tenth anniversary album; old and new material, with kantele player Anna-Maija Karjalainen and the rich vocals of Pia Rask, and also the infrequent, but heart-touching singing of fiddler Hotakainen.
cd Lunastettava Neito
1990 album illustrating the range of Finno-Ugrian musics, and featuring one of Wimme Saari's most magnificent recorded moments, his soaring joik accompanied by a magical arrangement of bowed strings over shifting harmonium and bass drones.
Four-member unaccompanied female vocal group formed by Tellu Virkkala, ex-Hedningarna, to perform Suden Aika and new works. The live group's line-up has changed from that on the CD.
cd Suden Aika
The story, in resonant runo-song images, of a woman's birth, entrapment and quest for her own life. Stark and magnificent; the intertwining voices, moving between silky and hard-edged, of Tellu, Sanna Kurki-Suonio, Liisa Matveinen and Pia Rask, with Outi Pulkkinen, Anita Lehtola and Swedish percussionist Tina Johansson.
Another new twist in the Kaustinen dance combo tradition, with a lively spring from top young players: fiddlers Ville Ojanen and Matti Mäkelä, accordionist Minna Luoma, bassist Timo Myllykangas, with the new-pelimanni eminence grise, Timo Alakotila, on harmonium.
(Olarin, Finland; NorthSide, US)
Traditional material as well as some written by members, interesting winding, fresh melodies with a Balkanish whizz in places.
The remarkable Eeli Kivinen (1900-1990) from Vimpeli; a man with a unique, eccentric personal tradition using the kantele to accompany his extraordinary, graphic singing.
cd Vimpelin Väinämöinen
Sadly hard to find, on a legendary but defunct Finnish label, and no CD re-release as yet.
Finlandís best-known roots band, Värttinä produce a high-energy runo-song-based sound. They comprise energetic women singers plus a skilful band.
In this 1998 release, the Värttinä approach comes together triumphantly - much-developed vocals, including touches of throat-singing and pygmy hocketing, with strong technologised and acoustic instrumental backings which pick up ingeniously on the rhythmic shifts and interplays within the narrow-range runolaulu which remains central to the band's music.